This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series.
Finalist of the Independent Games Festival Genesis Black turns the Big Bang into an existence-spanning crime story, aimed at saving your love by destroying creation itself. It’s partly a scientific theory, partly a black crime story.
Gamasutra chatted with Evan Anthony and Jeremy Abel of Feral Cat Den, developers of the multi-award-nominated game, to talk about what prompted them to confuse the two topics, how they developed a visual style that was striking but played out. the strengths and size of the team, and the musical inspirations that helped them create the game’s impressive soundtrack.
Evan Anthony, animator / designer in New York and I am the creative manager of Genesis Black. Genesis Black is our first long form game! Previously, we made little games for friends or for advertising.
Jeremy Abel, technical manager of Genesis Black: I am a programmer / engineer / artist in New York and I am the technical manager of Genesis Black.
Antoine: The idea came to me as I was crossing the Williamsburg Bridge here in New York. I had just read Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino and was won over by his fusion of scientific theory, abstraction and sincere characters. Each short story in the collection begins with a brief science theory that frames the story that follows, and I loved the pace of fiction and non-fiction. My imagination was in overdrive.
Reflecting on the book with a great view of the skyscrapers, trains, and bustle of New York City, the idea of the Big Bang being urban black struck me. It seemed like a very natural concept that could be inspired by Cosmicomics, but with its own tone and inspirations.
Antoine: We used Unreal Engine 4, FMOD, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Cinema 4D.
Antoine: It was important to balance the distant abstraction of the Big Bang concept with the classic tropes of film noir history. By starting the game with a familiar love triangle, we establish a foundation that allows us to take the story to unexpected places. Creating this game was a real joy because we were able to study the existential themes within the structure of film noir, the different eras of history and the nature of space-time.
Antoine: Our background is in web / facility design and motion graphics. Projects like Umbro Blackout by Buck focus on graphic design and creative transitions. We wanted to create a game that also changed perspectives and settings to create some delicious surprises, especially as our story unfolds in space on scales ranging from subatomic to interstellar.
The black and white mix of hand drawing and 3D is also a very effective visual language for a small team. Simple characters allow us to create limited but expressive animation. Simple lighting and shapes allow us to combine 2D and 3D props to create interesting environments. We are able to save money at times but also add flourishes at others.
Abel: In addition, our friend Jeffrey Soldan built us a custom tool to import vector animations from Adobe Animate. It renders the animations as geometry, which allows us to keep the file size small while still having resolution independent fullscreen cutscenes. It really allowed us to leverage our network of animator friends in New York, as they were already used to working in Animate.
Antoine: We really appreciate the playful transitions and wanted to make the experience very smooth. The emphasis on transitions also helps convey that No Man is a transcendent being who is present at different scales and times in the universe.
Antoine: Since Genesis Black takes place through time and space throughout the lifespan of the universe, we could include anything! To create a story that doesn’t completely collapse into absolute indulgence, we’ve attempted to connect the interactions and moments throughout the game through comparisons or contrasts. For example, one level features the juxtaposition of the death of a star with the decay of a dead deer to unify the cosmic and the familiar. These loose associations allowed us to explore a wide range of settings and concepts while adding subtle structure to the game.
Antoine: Our goal with the music was to pay homage to classic film noir scores and jazz, but also to use abstraction and synthesized audio for a contemporary tone.
We were drawn to the spiritual music of John Coletrane and Charles Mingus. “A Love Supreme” and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” strike a balance between joy and melancholy that is perfect for a creation story.
We were also incredibly inspired by the extravagant costumes, space themes and experiments of Afro-futuristic musician Sun Ra. Since our concept combined science fiction and existential concepts, his music was a perfect reference. Sun Ra’s album art and films were also big inspirations for the game’s visual design.
Antoine: I would like the player to enjoy or become curious about some of the story / physics topics the game explores. As a film noir story, I would also like players to feel the shades of gray in the characters’ actions and feel a little unsure of the ending.
Abel: I would like the player to feel the same passion we have for the subjects and themes encountered in the game. If they come out of the game with a new respect for jazz music or an interest in the cosmos, we will have done our job. .